Many were surprised when the Detroit Lions passed on drafting a linebacker in the first two days of the 2022 NFL Draft. Perceived as possibly the Lions’ top need going into the three-day event, Detroit waited until Pick 188 too select a linebacker: Oklahoma State’s Malcolm Rodriguez.
Many Lions fans immediately fell in love. Rodriguez is undersized, but he’s a tenacious player, sound tackler and strong leader. In rookie minicamp, he stood out simply because while other linebackers were getting coached intimately by the Lions’ staff, it looked as if they had almost no notes for Rodriguez. He was already doing exactly what they wanted.
Of course, it’s important to remind ourselves that Rodriguez is a sixth-round pick. Expecting him to step up and take a starting role—either this year or any year—would be a remarkable performance above expectations for a Day 3 pick. Still, some have high hopes for the former wrestler (drink!).
So are Lions fans being irrational about a Day 3 pick or does Rodriguez truly have that high of a ceiling?
We chatted for about 30 minutes with Oklahoma State beat writer Scott Wright from The Oklahoman to learn everything we can about Rodriguez. Wright, indeed, believes that Detroit got a steal with Rodriguez, and while he’s not exactly predicting him winning a starting job right away, he does believe Rodriguez could have a long NFL career.
“Here’s what he’s going to bring and why I think he’s really valuable—a great value—as a sixth-round pick,” Wright told us. “He’s shown, throughout his career, that special teams play is not an issue for him. He is thrilled for the opportunity to be on the field in any situation. He was always willing to step out there and do what he needed for his team, and I can only imagine that’s strengthened at the next level, because he understands how big a deal it is to be part of an NFL team.
“He’s going to be a guy who comes in with his athleticism, his speed, and his tackling ability can be really valuable as a special teams guy right away. I think that’s going to be a big key for him being on a roster, whether it’s the Lions or someone else when the season kicks off. So I see that as being a huge value to him as his career progresses.
“From there, as a linebacker, he needs to be in a good situation where he’s going to be used right, because he does have some inherent weaknesses that come with not being as big as every guy that’s in his position. The best thing for him is to be used well and be used in situations that play to his strengths, which are mostly stay in towards the edge and getting out to make plays, being able to use that speed to pursue ball-carriers and make tackles. So if a team understands how to use him and play to his strengths, I think that he’s got a chance to be a guy that has a really solid NFL career.”
Don’t miss this full interview—which Malcolm Rodriguez’s mom called “one of the best podcasts I’ve seen” (for real)—below:
Also, if you’re interested in reading some of the things Wright has written on Rodriguez, here are two profiles from The Oklahoman:
- A humble star on the field, Malcolm Rodriguez shows his true personality out of the spotlight
- What makes OSU’s Malcolm Rodriguez one of college football’s top linebackers?
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